further her career.

‘So, Oksanna, what did you think?’ Evans asked as he approached the sultry brunette.

‘It was quite illuminating.’ Zoshchenko’s Ukrainian accent was soft, a hint of something both foreign and exotic.

‘Very diplomatic of you. Normally, these board meetings are fairly dull. At least that surprise show-and-tell we had at the end livened things up a bit. Oh, and regarding that, I’m afraid I must ask you not to mention the Sandstrom presentation to anyone, at least until after they’ve published their research. It’s all covered in the nondisclosure agreement you signed.’

‘I was a scientist long before I became a bureaucrat, so I understand discretion with regard to research. I promise I won’t discuss what I’ve seen here.’

‘Thank you, and again, I apologize. This was one meeting I couldn’t bow out of, and I didn’t want to abandon you in the lobby for two hours. Thank you for your patience.’

‘Your apology is unnecessary, Conrad. I truly found this meeting quite educational. Our economy, our way of thinking is so different from yours. We have many brilliant scientists, like this Sandstrom, but no mechanism to transfer technology to our industries. No way to capitalize on innovation. This consortium is a very good idea, one of many that I will take back to Moscow with me.’

‘Well, then, as a regent of this university, I am pleased that your visit here has been a productive one.’ Evans glanced at his watch. ‘If you like, we still have time for a decent meal before you leave.’

‘I’d like that,’ Zoshchenko replied appreciatively. ‘It’s a long flight back to Moscow, and the food served on airplanes is not so good.’



Moscow, Russia

Marathon flights, even in the comfort of first class, always left Oksanna Zoshchenko feeling sore and exhausted. Upon her arrival the previous evening at Sheremetyevo-2, she returned to her apartment and immediately collapsed into bed. She slept late, then went to an exclusive spa for a massage and to have her hair and nails done, wanting to look her best for her afternoon appointment.

Revitalized, Zoshchenko guided her white BMW sedan up Kosygina Prospekt, into the wooded area of southwest Moscow known as Vorobyovie Gory – Sparrow Hills. Turning off the main road, Zoshchenko drove down an avenue lined with trees and ten-foot walls. The walls were punctuated at regular intervals by gates and guardhouses, where permission to enter the manicured grounds and approach the mansion was either granted or denied.

Though prerevolutionary in appearance, most of the magnificent rezidences in Sparrow Hills were actually built during the reign of Stalin for privileged members of the ruling class. During the Revolution of 1917, Communist guns bore down on the forces of the provisional government from these same hills.

The road wound through the hilly terrain, until Zoshchenko finally reached her destination: a large two-story mansion that once housed the Politburo’s longest-serving member. In keeping with the new winds blowing across Russia, the imposing composition of carved stone and brick now sheltered Victor Ivanovich Orlov, founder of VIO FinProm and the nation’s wealthiest biznesmeny.

Zoshchenko stopped at the gatehouse, where a neatly dressed and well-armed guard checked her name against a list of those permitted entry. After a quick but thorough sweep of her BMW – car bombings by business rivals were not unheard of in Moscow – the guard waved her through.

She followed the cobblestone drive until she reached the ornate, pillared entryway. A pair of well-dressed guards appeared as she parked her car. Like the man at the gate, both were armed, and a flesh-toned coil of wire sprang from ear to collar on each. One of the guards opened the door for her courteously.

‘Thank you,’ Zoshchenko said as she exited her BMW.

She walked a few feet away, then stopped as she had done many times before. She knew the procedure and, because it was necessary, felt neither fear nor irritation. The second guard smiled politely and quickly waved the metal-detecting wand around her body.

‘Welcome back, Dr Zoshchenko,’ the guard said as he switched the wand off, relieved that he’d found nothing.

Personal security was truly a matter of life and death among the men who had clawed their way out of the rubble of Soviet Russia’s collapse and built business empires from the ruins. Chief among these men, the oligarchs of the new Russia, was Victor Ivanovich Orlov.

As Zoshchenko mounted the granite steps to the entryway, discreetly placed security cameras monitored her approach, and a butler opened the massive wooden door.

‘Thank you, Anatoli,’ she said as she entered the ornate foyer.

‘He’s in his office,’ the butler replied. ‘Shall I escort you up?’

Zoshchenko waved her hand dismissively and continued walking. ‘I know the way.’

She climbed the curved staircase to the second floor; sun streamed through the beveled glass of the Palladian window at the upper landing. Turning left, she followed the wide hallway past an impressive display of original masterpieces – any of which would fetch millions at auction – toward a pair of French doors. As she reached the doors, she heard a faint electronic buzz and the click of a mechanical assembly as the door locks released. She grasped the silver lever handles and pushed; the precisely balanced nine-foot-tall doors swung open effortlessly.

‘Dr Zoshchenko, welcome back. You had a pleasant trip, I hope?’ Irena Cherny asked politely as Zoshchenko entered the anteroom.

Cherny was a petite woman in her early thirties and attractive in a refined, classical sense. Orlov had an eye for beauty, both in art and women, and surrounded himself with the best of both. Zoshchenko had no way of knowing whether Cherny provided any intimate personal services to her employer, but she hoped that a man of Orlov’s intelligence knew enough not to cross that line with a woman positioned at the heart of his business empire.

‘My trip went well, Irena,’ Zoshchenko replied without elaboration. ‘Thank you for asking. Can he see me now?’

‘Victor knows you’re here, but he’s on the line with Zurich. It should only be a moment.’

Cherny glanced at the multiline phone on her desk as one of the illuminated buttons blinked off. ‘I’ll take you in now.’

Zoshchenko passed the hand-carved desk where Cherny sat, and followed the young woman to the pair of leaded-glass doors that led to Orlov’s office. Cherny twisted the silver handles and stood aside to allow Zoshchenko to enter, then drew the doors closed.

The office occupied more than fifty square meters of the second floor. Through a bank of windows that had been reglazed with Armorlite three centimeters thick, Orlov enjoyed a commanding view of the Moskva River and Luzhniky Park on the opposite bank. In the distance, off to the right, Zoshchenko saw the towers and gilded onion domes of the Kremlin.

Near the far wall, at the focus of the opulent room, sat a massive inlaid wooden desk that supported a slab of polished white marble. Behind this island of wood and stone, Orlov stood looking down at the financial information displayed on a thin flat computer screen. He wore a custom-made charcoal suit that complemented his trim physique. Orlov kept his graying, sandy brown hair close cropped and neat, more a matter of function than any overt sense of style, which further enhanced his aura of precision and discipline.

‘Oksanna, my love, you have returned to me.’

Orlov walked around the marbletop desk and greeted her with a warm embrace and a kiss on the cheek.

Zoshchenko returned the embrace, and then allowed her hands to slide down Orlov’s back until they reached his buttocks. She pulled his body close and kissed him with deliberate intensity. Several minutes seemed to pass before either surfaced for air.

Вы читаете Quantum
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату